Matthew paints one of my favorite moments in the Bible in Matt. 8:5-13. It’s the story of Jesus and the centurion. There’s something we need to know about centurion acceptance in the 1st century. They led in some of the worlds most difficult situations, and they led from the front. They were literate. They were the worst of the worst, or the best of the best depending on the vantage point. They were detested by those they occupied, most specifically in this area of the world. The were killers that commanded killers. They were consequently the most hated and feared symbol of Roman occupation. This encounter is striking to first century readers of Matthew because Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. The Messiah was expected to set up a forever rule without occupation by outside forces (Is. 9:7, John 12:34, & Ez. 37:25), so how could the one who was supposed to oust the occupiers be helping the greatest symbol of occupation?
“I am, so I will.”
The centurion cared for those in his life, and He was now hoping Jesus would do the same. Jesus responds simply, “I will” (Matt. 8:7). Jesus said that His love was greater than our similarities, but is most vibrant in our differences. Jesus was acting out what He had previously taught (Matt. 5:46). Jesus made sense of true love when He said love isn’t exclusion, but love is inclusion. Love doesn’t keep me from you, love draws me to you. The light of Jesus’ love shines brightest in the very moments you expect Him not to love.
“Love isn’t predictable, because life isn’t.”
The scene with the centurion ends with Jesus finding the good in the centurion, and if that wasn’t bold enough, Jesus ends the encounter by showing and telling His disciples the mechanics of love is inclusion not exclusion. Love isn’t displayed in our similarities as much as it is in our differences. You’re going to meet a world of different people today, this week, this life, show them the love Jesus made sense of so long ago. Show them that differences are celebrated because loves shines brightest there.
“Loved. I am, so I will…”